Snow Loading for Trusses: Why Specifying a Roof Snow Load Isn’t Enough

bill-walton-quoteYou might wonder what a quote about winning basketball games could possibly have to do with snow loading on trusses.  As with basketball, the importance of close teamwork also applies to a project involving metal-plate-connected wood trusses – for the best outcome, the whole team needs to be on the same page. For purposes of this blog post, the team includes the Building Designer, the Truss Designer and the Building Official, and the desired outcome is not a win per se, but rather properly loaded trusses. Snow loading on trusses is one area where things may not always go according to the game plan when everyone isn’t in accord. This post will explain how to avoid some common miscommunications about truss loading.

Which snow load are you specifying?

Which snow load are you specifying?

Like all other design loads that apply to trusses, snow loads are determined by the Building Designer and must be specified in the construction documents for use in the design of the building and the roof trusses. But sometimes the loads that are specified don’t provide enough information to ensure that the design will be correct for the specific circumstances. In the case of designs for snow loads, there needs to be a common understanding among all parties regarding the following:

  • Which snow load value is to be used as the uniform design load for the snow – a ground snow or a factored ground snow?
  • If it is a factored snow load, then how is the ground snow to be factored?
  • What other conditions need to be considered besides uniform load?
Sample Snow Load Specification

Sample Snow Load Specification

For example, say the Building Designer specifies that the trusses are to be designed for a 25 psf roof snow load. At first glance, this may appear to make things easier, since there is no need to convert the ground snow to a roof snow load. So what does the Truss Designer do with this load? There are a few different possibilities:

If unbalanced snow loading isn’t required or specified, the Truss Designer may enter the 25 psf snow load as a top chord live load (TCLL), set the load duration factor to 1.15 for snow, and turn snow loading off completely. Or the 25 psf snow load could be entered as a roof snow load with the unbalanced snow loading option turned off. Provided that no slope reduction factor gets applied to the specified roof snow load, both of these methods result in the same design. However, as discussed in my first blog post on snow loading for trusses, whenever a snow load is run as a roof live load rather than a snow load, it may not be clear to all parties involved what exactly the truss has been designed for, since there will be no notes indicating the snow design criteria on the truss design drawing.

If unbalanced snow loading is required, things get a bit trickier.  There are still two scenarios as to how the truss could be designed, but this time, the design results are different:

  • The truss could be designed based on the assumption that ground snow is being used as the roof design snow load (pg = 25 psf); or
  • The truss could be designed based on the assumption that the 25 psf roof snow load is a factored ground snow load, in which case a ground snow load is back-calculated using ASCE 7 based on the specified roof snow load (pg > 25 psf)

Therein lies the problem with specifying only a roof snow load. The determination of the drift load that is required for unbalanced snow load cases requires the use of the ground snow load, pg, not the roof snow load. If the ground snow load isn’t specified, then a ground snow load needs to be assumed – and the Truss Designer and the Building Designer may not be on the same page as it relates to this design assumption.

ASCE 7 Drift Height Calculation

ASCE 7 Drift Height Calculation

Even when the specification is clear regarding ground snow vs. roof snow load and the applicable snow load reduction factors, there is still the question whether any other conditions need to be considered besides uniform load. This includes not only unbalanced snow loads on standard gable roofs, but also drifting on lower roofs or in valleys, sliding snow, and any other snow-loading and/or snow accumulation considerations. Since trusses are designed as individual planar components, snow-loading conditions that go beyond the simple unbalanced load case on either side of the ridge on gable roof trusses must be detailed by the Building Designer.

Snow accumulation requirements must be detailed by the Building Designer

Snow accumulation requirements must be detailed by the Building Designer

As mentioned in a previous blog post, the truss industry’s Load Guide entitled Guide to Good Practice for Specifying & Applying Loads to Structural Building Components provides a tool to help Building Designers, Building Officials, Truss Designers and others more easily understand, define and specify loads for trusses. Similar to the wind-loading section discussed in that previous blog post, the Load Guide has an entire section on snow loading, how specific snow-loading provisions apply to trusses and how trusses are typically designed for snow loading within the truss design software.

Snow Load Worksheet from the Load Guide

Snow Load Worksheet from the Load Guide

With printable worksheets that can be used to define the snow loads and examples of multiple snow- loading conditions on different roof and truss profiles, the Load Guide is an invaluable tool for getting everyone on the same page. That’s what I would call a win!

How do you ensure that your design team is all on the same page regarding the loading of trusses? What are the biggest challenges for designing truss loads in your jurisdiction? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Seismic Bracing Requirements for Nonstructural Components

Have you ever been at home during an earthquake and the lights turned off due to a loss of power?  Imagine what it would be like to be in a hospital on an operating table during an earthquake or for a ceiling to fall on you while you are lying on your hospital bed.

One of the last things you want is to experience serious electrical, mechanical or plumbing failures during or after a seismic event. During the 1994 Northridge earthquake, 80%-90% of the damage to buildings was to nonstructural components. Ten key hospitals in the area were temporarily inoperable primarily because of water damage, broken glass, dangling light fixtures or lack of emergency power.

Complete loss of suspended ceilings and light fixtures in the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. (FEMA 74, 1994)

Complete loss of suspended ceilings and light fixtures in the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. (FEMA 74, 1994)

Broken sprinkler pipe at Olive View Hospital in Sylmar, California after the 1994 Northridggde, Earthquake. (FEMA 74, 1994)

Broken sprinkler pipe at Olive View Hospital in Sylmar, California after the 1994 Northridggde, Earthquake. (FEMA 74, 1994)

ASCE 7 has an entire chapter titled Seismic Design Requirement of Nonstructural Components (Chapter 13 of ASCE 7-10) that is devoted to provisions on seismic bracing of nonstructural components. Unfortunately, not a lot of Designers are aware of this part of the ASCE. This blog post will walk Designers through the ASCE 7 requirements.

Nonstructural components consist of architectural, mechanical, electrical and plumbing utilities. Chapter 13 of ASCE 7-10 establishes the minimum design criteria for nonstructural components permanently attached to structures. First, we need to introduce some of the terminology that is used in Chapter 13 of ASCE 7.

seismicbrace3

  • Component – the mechanical equipment or utility.
  • Support – the method to transfer the loads from the component to the structure.
  • Attachment – the method of actual attachment to the structure.
  • Importance Factor (Ip) – identifies which components are required to be fully functioning during and after a seismic event. This factor also identifies components that may contain toxic chemicals, explosive substances, or hazardous material in excess of certain quantities. This is typically determined by the Designer.

Section 13.2.1 of ASCE 7 requires architectural, mechanical and electrical components to be designed and anchored per criteria listed in Table 13.2-1 below.

seismicbrace4

Architectural components consist of furniture, interior partition walls, ceilings, lights, fans, exterior cladding, exterior walls, etc. This list may seem minor compared to structural components, but if these components are not properly secured, they can fall and hurt the occupants or prevent them from escaping a building during a seismic event. The risk of fire also increases during an earthquake, further endangering the occupants.

Failure of office partitions and ceilings during the Northridge 1994 Earthquake. (FEMA 74, 1994)

Failure of office partitions and ceilings during the Northridge 1994 Earthquake. (FEMA 74, 1994)

Damage to overloaded  storage racks during the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. (FEMA 74, 1994)

Damage to overloaded storage racks during the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. (FEMA 74, 1994)

Section 13.5 of ASCE 7-10 includes the necessary requirements for seismic bracing of architectural components. Table 13.5-1 provides various architectural components and the seismic coefficients required to determine the force level the attachments and supports are to be designed for.

Mechanical and electrical components consist of floor-mounted and suspended equipment. It also includes suspended distributed utilities such as ducts, pipes or conduits. These components are essential in providing the necessary functions of a building. In a hospital, these components are required to be fully functioning both during and after a seismic event. A disruption of these components can make an entire hospital building unusable. In order for hospitals to properly service the needs of the public after a seismic event, fully functioning equipment is essential.

Failed attachments to a chiller after the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. (FEMA 74, 1994)

Failed attachments to a chiller after the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. (FEMA 74, 1994)

Section 13.6 of ASCE 7-10 provides the requirements of seismic bracing for mechanical and electrical components. Table 13.6-1 provides a list of typical components and the coefficients required to determine the force level the attachments and supports are to be designed for.

Chapter 13 lists some typical requirements for which components are to be anchored and supported under specific conditions:

  1. Section 13.1.4 item 6c: Any component weighing more than 400 pounds.
  2. Section 13.1.4 item 6c: Any component where its center of gravity is more than 4 feet above the floor.
  3. Section 13.6.5.6 has specific electrical conduit size and weight requirements.
  4. Section 13.6.7 has specific size and weight requirements for suspended duct systems.
  5. Section 13.6.7 has specific size and weight requirements for suspended piping systems.

The chapter also has some general exceptions to the rules:

  1. 12 Inch Rule: When a distributed system such as conduit ducts or pipes are suspended from the structure with hangers less than 12 inches in length, seismic bracing is not required.
  2. If the support carrying multiple pipes or conduits weighs less than 10 pound/feet of lineal weight of the component, the seismic bracing of the support does not have to be considered.
Example of a support with multiple pipes and the hanger rod length. These exceptions do have limitations, which that are clearly listed in Ssections 13.6.5.6, 13.6.7 and 13.6.8.

Example of a support with multiple pipes and the hanger rod length.

These exceptions do have limitations that are clearly listed in Sections 13.6.5.6, 13.6.7 and 13.6.8.

These systems may not seem important in the structural systems of a building, but they are essential in allowing the building to function the way it was designed to serve the public. It is also important that occupants are able to escape a damaged building after a seismic event. Obstacles such as bookcases blocking exit doors or falling debris may prevent occupants from leaving a building after a seismic event.

It is important that Designers are aware of these code requirements and take the time to read and understand what is needed to provide a safe structure.

 

Open Front Structure Wind Pressure Design

We received a request from Martin H., one of our blog readers, to discuss the method for determining roof wind pressures on an open front agricultural building. The inquiry was regarding clarification on analyzing the roof pressure when a combined external and interior pressure exists and whether these are additive.

Wind Pressure Figure

As can be seen in the above illustrations, the net design pressure on the roof is the sum of the uplift on the exterior surface and the uplift on the interior surface from any internal pressure. ASCE 7 provides a method for determining this pressure. Specifically, ASCE 7-10 will be used for the remainder of this post. Assuming the three remaining sides of the open front structure are walls without openings, the building will be classified as partially enclosed by the definitions of Section 26.2.

ASCE 7-10 provides for two methods for determining the Main Wind Force Resisting System (MWFRS) wind loads for partially enclosed buildings, the Directional Procedure in Chapter 27, and the Envelope Procedure in Chapter 28.

When using the Directional Procedure, the net wind load is calculated using the following equation:

P = qGCp – qi(GCpi)

When using the Envelope Procedure, the net wind load is calculated using the following equation:

 P = qh[(GCpf) – (GCpi)]  

In each of these equations, the first portion determines the pressure on the exterior surface, and the second portion determines the pressure on the interior surface. So the variable for calculating the internal pressure is the internal pressure coefficient GCpi.

The internal pressure coefficient is provided in Table 26.11-1 based on three different categories of building enclosure.

Enclosure Classification

(GCpi)

Open Buildings

0.00

Partially Enclosed Buildings

+0.55

-0.55

Enclosed Buildings

+0.18

-0.18

Table 26.11-1

In the case of an open front structure, it is assumed that the partially enclosed internal pressure coefficient must be used. This coefficient is 3x greater than when the building envelope is classified as enclosed. Use of this higher coefficient in the design will account for the interior pressure on the underside of the roof combined with the exterior pressure.

MWFRS versus C&C

Another somewhat related question: to what level loads should the roof anchorage forces be calculated, MWFRS or C&C (Component and Cladding)? I have often been asked this question, and wrote a Technical Note published by CFSEI (Cold-Formed Steel Engineers Institute) in July 2009.

What are your thoughts?

– Sam

Flexible or Rigid? Multi-Story Light-Frame Structure Design Considerations

I like to think I’m flexible, but I’ve been accused of being rigid at times. I guess that’s what therapy is for. If you were to ask a light-frame structure diaphragm that same question, you would likely get multiple conflicting answers. The 1988 UBC first introduced parameters to evaluate diaphragm rigidity. Earthquake Regulations Section 2312(e)6 stated:

Figure 1. Flexible Diaphragm Definition from ASCE 7-05

Provision shall be made for the increased shears resulting from horizontal torsion where diaphragms are not flexible. Diaphragms shall be considered flexible for the purposes of this paragraph when the maximum lateral deformation of the diaphragm is more than two times the average story drift of the associated story. This may be determined by comparing the computed midpoint in-plane deflection of the diaphragm under lateral load with the story drift of adjoining vertical resisting elements under equivalent tributary lateral load.

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